Most of you know the drill here.
There's a lead-in to this column touching on the Jaguars' situation entering the upcoming game, then we get into 10 important things about the game.
Today, we'll step away from focusing on the lead-in to the game, because today is about not only Jaguars-Bengals at EverBank Field, but about what will happen at halftime of that game.
The Jaguars will honor Fred Taylor.
They'll put No. 28 in the Pride of the Jaguars, and because of that it will be a memorable day for players, fans, team officials – shoot, just about anyone who was fortunate enough to know Taylor, cover him and/or watch him play.
You'll hear a lot about Taylor this week. There will be stories honoring him, former teammates talking about him, and highlight videos reminding us how good he really was.
And goodness, was he good.
Watch those videos when you get a chance. Watch how Taylor could break through the line with power, stop with suddenness, shake a linebacker with stunning quickness and force, then be gone like a shadow. That's special stuff – and I mean, really special. Few ever have played the game with such power, speed and strength.
Is he a Hall of Famer? I'd vote for him. I don't know if he'll eventually get in.
But that's a story for another day, another time. This week it's about Taylor and the Jaguars, and the love the fans of this team have for him. It's deserved love, and it's requited.
I met Taylor in 1998. He was a raw kid with unreal talent, uncomfortable with the media and still very much learning who he was. As he will tell you, he was on his way to becoming a man.
The man who will be inducted into The Pride Sunday is indeed a man, and one to be admired and loved. Those who watched him grow and mature during his Jaguars career will tell you it's one of the most remarkable transformations they ever have seen in the NFL.
You won't find many people around the Jaguars who don't love Fred Taylor. You won't find many people, period, who know Fred Taylor who don't admire him. Sunday will be a good day, a feel-good day, and it's well-deserved.
Fred Taylor, Pride of the Jaguars . . .
A more perfect-sounding honor is hard to imagine.
Here are 10 things the Jaguars must do to beat Cincinnati:
1. Let Gabbert play.Blaine Gabbert has shown he can make plays downfield late in games. Let him do it early. He's your quarterback. Trust him.
2. Pressure Andy Dalton. Again with this? Yes, again with this. The Jaguars needed to pressure the passer in the first three games. So far, they haven't done it enough. The defense improved in the second half last week, but to be a winning defense, you need sacks, particularly in big situations.
3. Get Blackmon involved.Again – again with this? Again – yes, again with this. Justin Blackmon has four receptions this season, and a lot of that low number is circumstance. When he's open, the protection breaks down and he doesn't get the ball. When he's not open, the ball comes his way and it's a miss. And so on. Such is life for an NFL rookie wide receiver. He's frustrated and pressing a bit, and that's understandable. Nothing's happened to remotely shake the team's belief in the No. 5 overall selection, but he needs the ball.
4. Build on last week.This is particularly true about the defense. The unit held strong in the second half, holding the Colts to three points. At times, it played very well and confused Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. Dalton won't be as easy to confuse, but the Jaguars must take what happened in the second half last week and get better from it.
5. Catch the ball on offense.Why hasn't Gabbert been more effective? Several reasons, but as Jaguars Head Coach Mike Mularkey said early this week, it doesn't help when receivers don't catch the ball. Drops don't just hurt on the play they happen. They sap momentum and set up bad down-and-distance situations. Catch the ball. Make the play when it's there.
6. Catch the ball on defense. This actually may have been more of an issue defensively last week than offensively. The Jaguars did a better job on Andrew Luck than the statistics might indicate. The defense had at least four chances at interceptions, and that number may be low. Paul Posluszny got one, but that's the Jaguars' only takeaway of the season. Create turnovers when they're there. Seasons turn on those plays.
7. Start fast. The Jaguars' defense didn't like giving up an early touchdown last week. That's the second consecutive week for that. With a young offense, it may be difficult to always start fast, but as Rashean Mathis said this week, it's up to the defense to get some stops early and give the offense a chance to get moving.
8. Limit A.J. Green. There's a far better chance of this now than had this game been two weeks ago. Rashean Mathis is nearing full health, and Derek Cox played well in his return last week. Both are very good and when they're in the game the Jaguars are a far more complex, versatile defense than when they're not.
9. Get 'em blocked.This might be titled, "Get healthy," because doing the second would sure help the first. The Jaguars' offensive line did a decent job protecting Gabbert last week, and the status of Eben Britton and Cameron Bradfield is better than last week. Each appear likely to play. How much would that help? Just like getting Mathis and Cox back on defense helps, getting your best players in the lineup lets you look more like you.
10. Keep believing. The Jaguars won't be favored in this game, and with a young team, there are going to be rough times and low points in most games. The Jaguars have had a chance to win two games this season because they have kept believing until the end. Keep that up and stay in the game. So far when the Jaguars have done that this season, they've done some surprising stuff.